EASO Country of Origin Information Report

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EASO

Country of Origin

Information Report

Afghanistan

Individuals targeted by

armed actors in the conflict

December 2017

European Asylum Support Office

SUPPORT IS OUR MISSION

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EASO

Country of Origin

Information Report

Afghanistan

Individuals targeted by

armed actors in the conflict

European Asylum Support Office

December 2017

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Europe Direct is a service to help you find answers to your questions about the European Union.

Freephone number (*):

00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11

(*) Certain mobile telephone operators do not allow access to 00800 numbers or these calls may be billed.

More information on the European Union is available on the Internet (http://europa.eu).

ISBN: 978-92-9494-819-9 doi: 10.2847/397769

© European Asylum Support Office 2017

Reproduction is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged, unless otherwise stated.

For third-party materials reproduced in this publication, reference is made to the copyrights statements of the respective third parties.

Cover photo: © Zabelin (iStockphotos)

Neither EASO nor any person acting on its behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained herein.

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Acknowledgements

EASO would like to thank following persons and departments for reviewing this report:

Lifos – Centre for Country of Origin Information and Analysis, Swedish Migration Agency

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), RSD Section

Neamat Nojumi, a scholar at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution with more than 20 years experience in democratisation, conflict analysis and state-building in Central and Southwest Asia. He has authored numerous books and studies on Afghanistan’s conflict and governance issues, including The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan: Mass Mobilisation, Civil War, and the Future of the Region (2002).

United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), Human Rights Service.

It must be noted that the review carried out by the mentioned departments, experts or organisations contributes to the overall quality of the report, but does not necessarily imply their formal endorsement of the final report, which is the full responsibility of EASO.

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Contents

Acknowledgements ... 3

Contents ... 4

Disclaimer ... 5

Glossary and Abbreviations ... 6

Introduction ... 10

Map of Afghanistan ... 12

1. Insurgent targeting of civilians ... 13

1.1 Modus Operandi of the Taliban ... 13

1.1.1 Formal structure of Taliban ... 13

1.1.2 Taliban strength ... 15

1.1.3 Taliban leadership and degree of unity ... 15

1.1.4 Taliban objectives ... 18

1.1.5 Taliban targeting of civilians ... 21

1.2 Targeted individuals ... 28

1.2.1 Members of the Afghan security forces and pro-government militias ... 28

1.2.2 Government officials or the accusation of being a government spy ... 31

1.2.3 Working for foreign military troops ... 35

1.2.4 Education sector personnel ... 37

1.2.5 Religious scholars ... 42

1.2.7 Humanitarian workers ... 43

1.2.8 Tribal elders ... 47

1.2.9 Enemies of the Taliban ... 48

1.2.10 Journalists, media workers and human rights defenders ... 48

1.2.11 Hazara and Shia minorities ... 53

1.2.12 Recruitment ... 58

1.3 Situation of family members ... 59

1.3.1 Family members of ANSF personnel ... 59

1.3.2 Family members ... 60

1.4 Escaping targeting ... 60

1.4.1 Repentance and redemption ... 60

1.4.2 Relocating ... 61

1.4.3 Capacity to track and target individuals within large cities ... 63

1.5 Insurgent groups other than the Taliban ... 64

1.5.1 Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)... 65

1.5.2 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) ... 68

2. Targeting by the government ... 70

2.1 Death penalty, summary executions, drone and air strikes ... 70

2.2 Torture and illegal detention ... 71

2.2.1 Arbitrary arrest and illegal detention ... 71

2.2.2 Treatment of detainees ... 72

2.3 Government targeting of journalists, media workers and human rights defenders .... 74

2.4 Treatment of healthcare workers, humanitarian workers and teachers ... 75

2.5 Government attitudes towards Hazara people ... 76

2.6 Afghan Local Police and pro-government militias ... 77

2.3.1 Targeted profiles ... 78

2.7 Redress ... 79

Annex I: Bibliography ... 80

Annex II: Terms of Reference ... 119

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Disclaimer

This report was written according to the EASO COI Report Methodology (2012) (1). The report is based on carefully selected sources of information. All sources used are referenced. To the extent possible and unless otherwise stated, all information presented, except for undisputed or obvious facts, has been crosschecked.

The information contained in this report has been researched, evaluated and analysed with utmost care. However, this document does not claim to be exhaustive. If a particular event, person or organisation is not mentioned in the report, this does not mean that the event has not taken place or that the person or organisation does not exist.

Furthermore, this report is not conclusive as to the determination or merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Terminology used should not be regarded as indicative of a particular legal position.

‘Refugee’, ‘risk’ and similar terminology are used as a generic terminology and not as legally defined in the EU Asylum Acquis and the Geneva Convention.

Neither EASO nor any person acting on its behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained in this report.

The target users are asylum caseworkers, COI researchers, policymakers, and decision-making authorities.

The drafting of this report was finalised on 27 November 2017. Any event taking place after this date is not included in this report. More information on the reference period for this report can be found in the methodology section of the introduction.

(1) The EASO methodology is largely based on the Common EU Guidelines for processing Country of Origin Information (COI), 2008, and can be downloaded from the EASO website: http://www.easo.europa.eu.

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Glossary and Abbreviations

AAN Afghanistan Analysts Network

AGEs Anti-Government Elements: UNAMA

defines ‘Anti-Government Elements’ as all individuals and armed groups involved in armed conflict with or armed opposition against the Government of Afghanistan and/or international military forces. They include those who identify as ‘Taliban’ as well as individuals and non-State organised armed groups taking a direct part in hostilities and assuming a variety of labels including the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e Islami, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Islamic Jihad Union, Lashkari Tayyiba, Jaysh Muhammed, groups identifying themselves as ‘Daesh’ (Islamic State) and other militia and armed groups pursuing political, ideological or economic objectives including armed criminal groups directly engaged in hostile acts on behalf of a party to the conflict

AIHRC Afghanistan Independent Human Rights

Commission

ALP Afghan Local Police; a security initiative to

include armed militias in the police force, under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior.

Amir al-Muꞌminin ‘Commander of the Believers’. Taliban leader

ANSF Afghan National Security Forces, including

Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan National Police (ANP) and National Directorate of Security (NDS)

AREU Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit

Daesh See ISKP

Dar ul hifaz School specialised in teaching

memorisation of the Quran by heart Ghost teachers Educators that don’t show up or don’t exist

and who’s salaries are pocketed by themselves or by others, without actual performance

Haqqani Network An armed insurgent movement under the

leadership of Sirajuddin Haqqani, based in

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south-east Afghanistan and North Waziristan (Pakistan)

Hezb-e Islami Afghan opposition movement of which the

main faction is led by Gulbuddin

Hekmatyar, which signed a peace accord with the Afghan government in 2016

IDP Internally Displaced Person

IMU Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamist

armed group with initial focus on Central Asia, but also active in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was the state in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 under the Taliban regime. The Taliban still uses this name

ISK or ISKP Islamic State in Khorasan Province; affiliates of ISIL based in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Often referred to as Daesh in Afghanistan Istakhbarati Karwan Targeting teams of the Taliban.

Jihad ‘Holy War’, also used to refer to the

insurgency against the communist regime and Soviet occupation (1979-89)

Jihadi The fighters from the insurgency against

the communist regime and Soviet

occupation (1979-89) are still referred to as mujahideen or jihadi

Jirga A gathering of tribal elders

Kangaroo court Extrajudicial tribunal

Layeha Taliban code of conduct

Maktab Government supported school

Madrassa Islamic religious school

Mullah Islamic cleric (teachers and preachers) who

studied in a madrassa. In Afghanistan, they are very prevalent outside the cities and usually the single religious authority in a village. They can often read Arabic and the Quran

NDS National Directorate of Security,

Afghanistan’s intelligence service

NUG National Unity Government; a coalition

government formed after the 2014 elections with Ashraf Ghani as President and Abdullah Abdullah as CEO

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Rahbari Shura The Leadership Council, the overall decision making body of the Taliban

Saranwal State prosecutor or attorney

Sharia Islamic law, used and interpreted by the

schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, Shafii and Ja’fari). Art. 130 of the Afghan Constitution designates Hanafi jurisprudence as the default one

Shura Community council

SIGAR Special Inspector General for Afghanistan

Reconstruction; an independent oversight body on US-funded reconstruction programs

Taliban Armed Islamic insurgent movement in

Afghanistan under the leadership of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada and the Rahbari Shura. The movement originated in the Afghan refugee communities in Pakistan and in Kandahar in the Mujahideen era (1980s and 90s), took control of Kabul in 1996 and, by 2001, controlled most of the country. See also: Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Twelver Largest Shia Muslim branch; The term

'Twelver' is based on the belief that twelve male descendants from the family of the prophet Muhammad, starting with Ali ibn Abi-Talib and ending with Muhammad al- Mahdi, are Imams who have religious and political authority. The twelfth last Imam, the Mahdi, is still alive, lives in occultation and will reappear

Ulema Body of Muslim scholars who are

recognised as having specialist knowledge of Islamic law and theology

UNAMA United Nations Assistance Mission in

Afghanistan

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for

Refugees

UNOCHA United Nations Office for the Coordination

of Humanitarian Affairs

USIP United States Institute for Peace

Voice of Jihad Official news website of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or, the Taliban

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Warlord A military leader with autonomy and capability of exercising control by force in a territory.

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Introduction

This report was drafted by COI officers from the COI sector of the Information and Analysis Unit in the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). To cover all topic areas of the Terms of Reference, EASO created two COI reports: One covering targeting directly related to the armed actors in the conflict and another for targeting linked to broader societal issues.

This report covers topics on individuals targeted by armed actors within the context of the conflict in Afghanistan. This report is written in conjunction with a report on targeting of individuals in society titled, EASO COI Report - Afghanistan: Individuals targeted under societal and legal norms (2).

Terms of Reference

The report aims to provide relevant information for the assessment of international protection status determination (PSD, including refugee status and subsidiary protection).

The terms of reference of this report were defined by EASO based on discussions held and input received from policy experts in EU+ countries3 and UNHCR within the framework of a Country Guidance Network pilot exercise to develop a Country Guidance Note on Afghanistan.

The report was drafted for the purpose of developing a chapter on the application of Refugee Status and Subsidiary Protection (a and b).

On targeting by insurgents, this report primarily focusses on targeting by the Taliban, with a separate subchapter for the Islamic State in Khorasan Province group (ISKP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). These three groups are deemed the main insurgent groups active in Afghanistan, and their targeting to some extend is representative of most of the insurgent targeting taking place in Afghanistan.

On the side of the (pro-)government actors in the conflict, this report looks into their conduct towards those suspected of being an anti-government element, and towards journalists and humanitarian workers.

Terms of Reference for this report can be found in Annex II: Terms of Reference.

Methodology

The information is a result of desk research of public, specialised paper-based and electronic sources until 27 November 2017. In addition, during the research, EASO researchers conducted extensive interviews with the following sources:

 Borhan Osman, a former journalist with Pajhwok and researcher/analyst with the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network. Now Osman is a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. He specialises in insurgent groups and armed conflict in Afghanistan. His research and reporting has mostly been based on fieldwork across Afghanistan.

(2) EASO, Country of Origin Information Report Afghanistan. Individuals targeted under societal and legal norms, December 2017 (url).

(3) All EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland.

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 Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the editor of RFE/RL's ‘Gandhara’ website. In addition to his reporting, Siddique speaks frequently at prominent Western think tanks and has contributed articles, chapters, and research papers to a range of publications.

Siddique is also the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan (2014).

 Anand Gopal, program fellow with the International Security Program at New America Foundation. Gopal is also a journalist with over ten years of experience in Afghanistan, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Harper’s Magazine and other media outlets. He is also the author of the book No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes (2014).

To verify whether the writers respected the EASO COI Report Methodology, a peer review was carried out by COI specialists from the departments listed as reviewers in the Acknowledgements section. In addition, a review of the report was carried out by Dr. Neamat Nojumi, a scholar on Central and Southwest Asia and senior policy analyst on Afghanistan.

The Human Rights Service at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reviewed all content. All comments made by the reviewers were taken into consideration and most of them were implemented in the final draft of this report. EASO performed the final quality review and edited the text. This quality process led to the inclusion of some additional information, in response to feedback received during the respective reviews, until 27 November 2017.

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Map of Afghanistan

Map 1: Afghanistan - administrative divisions, source: UN OCHA © United Nations

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1. Insurgent targeting of civilians

1.1 Modus Operandi of the Taliban

1.1.1 Formal structure of Taliban

In 2015, the UN Security Council published the following regarding the structure of the Taliban movement, based on Taliban messages (4):

1. The Taliban central structure consists of:

A. Office of Amir al-Muꞌminin (‘Commander of the Believers’): the leader of the Taliban movement. This office oversees the leadership council, the judiciary, the executive commissions and other administration organs. According to the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): ‘The Taliban's leader has the power to appoint, shuffle, and sack shadow governors of Afghanistan’s provinces and districts, commanders, and squad leaders’ (5). Under the leader, there are two deputies (6). (See 1.1.2 Taliban leadership and degree of unity) B. The leadership council or Rahbari Shura: According to the BBC, this council is ‘responsible for strategy, policy and overall decision making. [and is] [m]ade up of ex-Taliban ministers, diplomats, governors, military commanders and religious figures’ (7). This council is also commonly referred to as the Quetta Shura (8).

This council has 18-20 members (9). However, Harvard University Fellow, Michael Semple, an Afghanistan expert on human rights with more than 20 years of experience in the country, states that

‘Insofar as there are ever any meetings that conform to the title Rehbari shura (leadership council), there are occasional meetings of a relatively stable group of a dozen or so senior figure who convene to consider sensitive issues. But the peer group with occasional input into decision making is rather larger and less stable in composition’ (10).

According to a 2017 report by Dr. Antonio Giustozzi, an independent researcher and visiting professor at King’s College London and author of several articles, papers and books on the Taliban, there is more than one shura leading the Taliban. Next to the Quetta Shura, there is a Shura of the North, headquartered in Badakhshan, a Mashhad Shura, based in Iran and the Rasool Shura, or High Council of the Islamic Emirate, reportedly based in Farah. None of these recognise the leadership of the Quetta Shura. Yet at times, there seems to be some sort of

(4) UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp.

19-21.

(5) CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

(6) Ruttig, T., The New Taleban Deputy Leaders: Is there an obvious successor to Akhtar Mansur?, 10 February 2016 (url); CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

(7) BBC News, Who are the Taliban?, 26 May 2016 (url).

(8) CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url); Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p. 5.

(9) BBC News, Who are the Taliban?, 26 May 2016 (url); UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp. 19-21.

(10) Semple, M., Rhetoric, Ideology and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement, 5 January 2015 (url ), p.

19.

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coordination or cooperation between these Shuras. Under the Quetta Shura, two networks, the Peshawar Shura and the Miran Shah Shura, or Haqqani network, operate partly independently, while recognising the authority of the Quetta Shura (11).

C. The Taliban courts and judges. These are mobile and static courts in areas where insurgents maintain a significant presence (12).

2. Taliban commissions and ‘organs’: These are independent directorates (13) and can be considered a cabinet of ministers (14). It functions de facto as ‘a shadow government that mirrors the structure of its toppled regime and attempts to portray the movement as a government-in-exile’ (15). According to a 2017 BBC report from Helmand, the idea that a government should provide public services, such as healthcare and education, is now expected by the people, and accepted by the Taliban (16). According to the 2015 UN Security Council report (17), these are the Taliban commissions:

1. Military commission 2. Political commission 3. Cultural commission

4. Financial and economic commission 5. Health commission

6. Education commission

7. Outreach and guidance commission 8. Prisoners’ commission

9. Non-governmental organization commission 10. Organ for the prevention of civilian casualties 11. Organ for Martyrs’ and disabled people

12. Organ for collecting and organizing special revenue

The Military commission claims to have its own terms of reference and organises training of Taliban forces (18). According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), there are two military commissions, one based in Quetta, the other based in Peshawar (19). According to other sources, there are two more military councils: one based in Miran Shah, North Waziristan, corresponding to the Haqqani Network, and one in Gerdi Jangal, Baluchistan (20).

According to UNAMA, the Taliban established an ‘Independent Organ of the Islamic Emirate for the Prevention of Civilian Casualties and Enquiry of Grievances’, as an independent

(11) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), pp. 6, 11.

(12) CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

(13) UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp.

19-21.

(14) BBC News, Who are the Taliban?, 26 May 2016 (url).

(15) CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

(16) BBC News, Taliban territory: Life in Afghanistan under the militants [video], 7 June 2017 (url).

(17) UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp.

19-20.

(18) UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp.

19-21.

(19) CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url); Semple, M., Rhetoric, Ideology and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement, 5 January 2015 (url ), p. 18.

(20) Landinfo, Temanotat Afghanistan: Taliban – organisasjon, kommunikasjon og sanksjoner (del I), 16 June 2016 (url), p. 16; Roggio, B., ISAF targets Quetta military shura leader in southern Afghanistan, 21 January 2011 (url);

Roggio, B., Islamic State Khorasan province’s emir targeted in US raid, 28 April 2017 (url) [comment section].

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commission, in addition to the above mentioned commissions (21). See 1.1.5.1 Restrictions for more information.

3. Field commanders and shadow governors (22). The Military commission appoints, according to the UN Security Council, provincial shadow governors, deputy shadow governors for all 34 provinces, district shadow governors, and in each district, group commanders and squad leaders (23). Each of the above mentioned Shuras is composed of local groups or ‘fronts’

(24). In 2015, the UN Security Council published the names of all Taliban shadow governors (25).

1.1.2 Taliban strength

According an April/May 2017 report on Taliban recruitment by the Norwegian Country of Origin service, LandInfo, which is based on published sources and field interviews, the Taliban has two types of fighters: full time professional fighters, often recruited in the madrassas, and part-time local fighters, loyal to a local commander and embedded in the local society (26).

According to Giustozzi, the total Taliban manpower exceeds 200,000, of which 150,000 are fighters. These fighters can be divided in around 60,000 members of full time mobile units, the rest being local militias (27). Afghanistan researcher and former Chatham House expert and analyst at the Afghanistan Analyst Network, Matt Waldman, quoted by Voice of America (VOA), also estimated the core Taliban force to be over 60,000 in 2014 (28). The militias hail from local communities that support the Taliban, the mobile units are composed of full time fighters and bear the brunt of the fighting (29). For more information on the command structure and the local Taliban fronts, please refer to the EASO Country of Origin Information Report Afghanistan – Recruitment by armed groups from September 2016 (30) and Landinfo’s Report Afghanistan: Recruitment to Taliban, dated 29 June 2017 (31).

1.1.3 Taliban leadership and degree of unity

In July 2015, the Taliban announced the death of its leader Mullah Omar. He led the movement from its inception in the nineties and probably died two years earlier, in 2013 (32).

The leadership of the movement was subsequently taken up by Mullah Mansour, who is believed to have led the movement for quite some time, at least since the death of Mullah

(21) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), p. 76.

(22) BBC News, Who are the Taliban?, 26 May 2016 (url); Reuters, Afghan Taliban's new chief replaces 24 'shadow' officials, 27 January 2017 (url).

(23) UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp.

19-21.

(24) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 8.

(25) See annex to: UN Security Council, Letter dated 18 August 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 26 August 2015 (url), pp. 19-21.

(26) Landinfo, Afghanistan: Recruitment to Taliban, 29 June 2017 (url), pp. 8-9.

(27) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), pp. 12-13.

(28) VoA, Despite Massive Taliban Death Toll No Drop in Insurgency, 6 March 2014 (url).

(29) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), pp. 12-13.

(30) EASO, Country of Origin Information Report Afghanistan – Recruitment by armed groups, September 2016 (url), pp. 14-16.

(31) Landinfo, Report Afghanistan: Recruitment to Taliban, 29 June 2017 (url), pp. 8-11.

(32) Guardian (The), Taliban officially announce death of Mullah Omar, 30 July 2015 (url); Soufan Group (The), TSG IntelBrief: The Death of Mullah Omar, 30 July 2015 (url); CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

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Omar in 2013 (33). The rule of Mullah Mansour was rivalled by different factions within the Taliban movement, the biggest challenge posed by a group around Mullah Mohammad Rasool (34). Mullah Mansour was subsequently killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province in May 2016 (35). The new Taliban leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is an Islamic judge. Sources consider Haibattulah more a religious scholar than a military commander, and is perceived as weak, ineffective and having little influence in the movement (36).

Although since 2001 the Taliban was never considered a solidly united movement, there was a degree of hierarchy and structure in the organisation (37). ‘Obedience to the Amir’ (Taliban leader) used to be a central theme in the Taliban’s internal organisation (38). However, since the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader is not seen as ‘infallible’ anymore and the leader’s actions can be questioned, according to Borhan Osman, a senior analyst at International Crisis Group (ICG) and former researcher at the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) who specialises in the insurgency and insurgent groups (39). According to Giustozzi, since 2015 the Amir ‘has become a source of division and controversy, rather than a unifying figure’ (40). According to a 2017 briefing paper on the Taliban after a decade of war, published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)41 and written by Afghanistan scholars Michael Semple and Theo Farrell, professor at King’s College London, under the current leadership of Mawlawi Haibatullah the governance structure of national, provincial and district commissions for military and political affairs is falling apart. Farrel and Semple stated that the current leader is cut off from important financial resources (such as narcotics) and several senior members, such as the Helmand shadow governor, act independently (42).

Other insurgent networks besides the Haqqani network, such as a network around Qayum Zaker or the network around the deceased Mullah Mansour’s brother Obeidullah Ishaqzai and other smaller networks that function as Pakistan’s proxies, have carved out a certain autonomy within the Taliban movement (43). Besides Pakistan’s role, alleged Saudi, Iranian and Russian (44) involvement in the Taliban is also feeding factionalism by providing resources,

(33) Osman, B., Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace), 26 May 2016 (url).

(34) Osman, B., Toward Fragmentation? Mapping the post-Omar Taleban, 24 November 2015 (url); Giustozzi, A.

and Mangal, S., An Interview with Mullah Rasool on Reconciliation Between the Taliban and the Afghan Government, 16 March 2016 (url); CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url); Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 5.

(35) Guardian, (The), US drone strike in Pakistan kills Taliban leader Mullah Mansoor, 22 May 2016 (url); CFR, The Taliban, 2015 (url).

(36) Osman, B., Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace), 26 May 2016 (url); New York Times (The), Taliban’s New Leader, More Scholar Than Fighter, Is Slow to Impose Himself, 11 July 2016 (url); Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), pp. 4-5.

(37) EASO, Country of Origin Information Report. Afghanistan. Taliban Strategies – Recruitment, July 2012 (url), p.

18; Franco, C. and Giustozzi, A., ‘Revolution in the Counter-Revolution: Efforts to Centralize the Taliban’s Military Leadership’, in Central Asian Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2016 (url), pp. 249–286.

(38) Semple, M., Rhetoric, Ideology and Organizational Structure of the Taliban Movement, 5 January 2015 (url ), pp. 10-11.

(39) Osman, B., Taleban in Transition 2: Who is in charge now?, 22 June 2016 (url).

(40) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 5.

(41) RUSI is an international, independent, defence and security research institution based in the UK.

(42) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

5; Reuters, Afghan Taliban's new chief replaces 24 'shadow' officials, 27 January 2017 (url).

(43) Osman, B., A Black Week in Kabul (2): Who are the most likely perpetrators?, 7 June 2017 (url); Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 6.

(44) Business Insider, Russia appears to now be helping out the Taliban, 27 January 2017 (url); Washington Post (The), Russia is sending weapons to Taliban, top U.S. general confirms, 24 April 2017 (url); Wall Street Journal (The), Iran Backs Taliban With Cash and Arms, 11 June 2015 (url); VOA, Afghan Lawmakers to Investigate Growing Ties Between Taliban, Russia and Iran, 5 December 2016 (url), RFE/RL, Afghan Governor Accuses Iran Of Supporting

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in cash and weaponry, for certain groups in the movement, while others are left out (45).

Because different foreign actors, often with opposing agendas, support different factions of the Taliban, Dr. Giustozzi states in his 2017 report for LandInfo that this fragmentation in the foreseeable future is likely to continue (46). According to some sources, in addition to support from neighbouring countries (47), certain Taliban breakaway factions have allegedly received support from the Afghan national authorities (48).

Besides narcotics and funding from foreign actors, local Taliban commanders generate their own income through illegal trade in Afghanistan’s valuable minerals, as well as investing in companies, engaging in money-laundering, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and other criminal activities (49). Experts Farrell and Semple report on a worry within the Taliban ranks that the Taliban are creating a ‘new war lord system, with local commanders breaking with the central chain of command, consolidating their local power and competing with one another over resources’ (50). According to Michael Semple and Theo Farrell, commanders are currently, much more than before, running the war from their own sources of income (51).

Several oral sources interviewed by the Research Directorate of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) described regional differences in unity and cohesion within the Taliban.

In general, sources stated that local Taliban seem to have a lot of ‘discretionary power’ when carrying out their activities. In certain remote areas local commanders have little relationship with the central Taliban leadership, while in others, there is more command and control over the troops (52).

Growing factionalism within the Taliban movement has analytical consequences. According to RUSI experts Farrell and Semple, ‘it no longer makes sense to ask ‘what is the Taliban position on … ?’ Instead analysis must be sufficiently nuanced to capture a wide range of Taliban positions on issues surrounding the conflict’ (53). In a 2016 article about the Taliban’s views on the future of Afghanistan, analysts on the Taliban movement, Borhan Osman and Anand Gopal also state that the Taliban movement is ‘too disparate and fragmented (both horizontally and vertically) for there to be any unity of thought’ (54). According to Borhan Osman, for these semi-autonomous networks, although nominally and officially under and partly dependent from the Rahbari Shura (the Leadership Council) for resources (55),

Taliban, 31 July 2017 (url); Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p.

9. Some observers are more sceptical about Russian direct involvement. See: Atlantic (the), Is Russia Really Arming the Taliban?, 25 August 2017 (url).

(45) CNN, Videos suggest Russian government may be arming Taliban, 26 July 2017 (url); Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p. 8.

(46) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 3.

(47) Kolenda, C., Five Myths to Dispel About An Afghan Peace, 21 January 2016 (url).

(48) New York Times (The), Afghan Government Quietly Aids Breakaway Taliban Faction, 19 June 2017 (url);

Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s organization and structure, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 12.

(49) UN Security Council, Letter dated 2 February 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 2 February 2015 (url), p. 4;

Rubin, B., in an introduction to: Osman, B. and Gopal, A., Taliban Views on a Future State, July 2016 (url), p. 5.

(50) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

12.

(51) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

8.

(52) IRB, Afghanistan: Whether the Taliban has the capacity to pursue individuals after they relocate to another region; their capacity to track individuals over the long term; Taliban capacity to carry out targeted killings (2012- January 2016), 15 February 2016 (url).

(53) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

10.

(54) Osman, B. and Gopal, A., Taliban Views on a Future State, July 2016 (url), p. 10.

(55) Osman, B., A Black Week in Kabul (2): Who are the most likely perpetrators?, 7 June 2017 (url).

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‘the official policy towards a certain issue does not always matter. They are bound only to the Taleban’s universal red lines – for example, that they cannot engage in sectarian attacks, beheadings and rapes – in order to keep their pledge of allegiance to the movement, and benefit from the name. There is a wide grey area in which these networks can operate in some divergence from official Taleban policies’ (56).

Borhan Osman attributes a number of assassinations or assassination attempts, to these networks. Targets include politicians, tribal elders, especially in the south, ulema and even other Taliban members (57).

1.1.4 Taliban objectives

According to Afghanistan scholar Neamat Nojumi, the aim of the Taliban is to demolish the current Afghan state, topple the national government as the agent of the state, dissolve the Constitution and reinstate their notion of an Islamic Emirate (58).

In announcing their 2017 spring offensive ‘Operation Mansouri’, the Taliban described both military and political objectives (59). Militarily, ‘the Taliban combines efforts to overrun the countryside with a relentless terrorism campaign in the cities’, according to journalist Abubakar Siddique (60). A key objective for the Taliban since the end of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (ISAF)and the withdrawal of the majority of the foreign troops in 2014, has been to seize one or more provincial capitals (61).

While this report focusses on the targeting of individuals, it is beyond the scope of this report to discuss all aspects of the Taliban strategy. For other aspects, such as the waging of a conventional war in rural or urban areas, refer to the EASO COI Report: Afghanistan: Security Situation (62).

1.1.4.1 The aim of the Taliban targeting campaign

According to program fellow with the International Security Program at New America Foundation, award-winning author and journalist Anand Gopal, the overall aim of the Taliban is to recapture power, or put enough pressure on the Afghan government to get a favourable position for talks (63). According to analyst Borhan Osman (64), the aim is to topple the current

(56) Osman, B., The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?, 5 September 2016 (url).

(57) Osman, B., The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?, 5 September 2016 (url).

(58) Nojumi, N., e-mail, 22 September 2017. Neamat Nojumi made this comment during the review of this report.

(59) UN Secretary-General (UNSG), The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, 15 June 2017 2017, available at: (url), p. 4; Foxley, T., Taliban announce 2017 Spring Offensive, afghanhindsight [weblog], posted on: 28 April 2017, (url)

(60) Siddique, A., The Taliban’s Spring Offensive: Afghanistan Faces a Crucial Year, 19 May 2017 (url)

(61) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

8.

(62) Find the latest update on https://www.easo.europa.eu/information-analysis/country-origin- information/country-reports

(63) Gopal, A., Skype interview, 1 September 2017. Anand Gopal is a journalist and author with over ten years’

experience in Afghanistan.

(64) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017. Borhan Osman is senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, focussing his research on insurgent groups.

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‘morally corrupt’ Afghan government (65) and build institutions of the Taliban’s notion of

‘social justice’ and development (66).

According to scholar Neamat Nojumi, defining the Afghan government as ‘morally corrupt’

forms the basis for the Taliban’s field commanders and fighters justification for violence against civilians, particularly those working for the Afghan government, such as civil servants, teachers and their families (67). While not excluding corruption involving briberies and personal enrichment, moral corruption is in the Afghan context often confused with mere financial gain (68). Often depicted as ‘puppets of the foreign invasion’, the current Afghan government is depicted by the Taliban as ‘trampling on Afghan culture and tradition and aiming to destroy the country’s Islamic system’ (69). The Taliban, in contrast, consider themselves as fighting for a just cause in a disciplined and honest way (70). This cause can be interpreted as a combination of defending tradition, national sovereignty and Islam (71).

Neamat Nojumi also observed that,

‘the overall objective of the Taliban for governance (not government) in Afghanistan has been an effort toward dismantling both modern and traditional social and political way of lives. In this direction, they view clerics as the leading moral force. […] During my engagements with senior Taliban officials in recent years, I found that the Taliban position toward state, governance and education remain fully intact as it was during the 1990s. I also noticed that the younger generation of the Taliban is even more sentimental/irrational (in comparison to the older generation) toward the objectives of the movement. […] The insurgency in Afghanistan has a dominant religious-based extreme ideological dogma. The reinforcement of this ideological dogma has so far deprived the Taliban leaders from arriving at a needed political maturity essential for organizational and leadership development. This dominant ideological trend has easily convinced fighters to target any profile that stands against their stated doctrine’

(72).

Yet, Borhan Osman explained that, in their rhetoric, they are consistently and increasingly portraying themselves as a parallel government and try to project themselves as ‘caring for the communities under their control’ (73). According to analyst Osman, this propaganda discourse does impact on the behaviour of the Taliban on the ground, in determining who is a legitimate target and who is not (74).

In an interview with EASO for this report, Anand Gopal described three main goals of the Taliban’s targeting campaign:

1. To delegitimise the government. By targeting those individuals who support the government, the Taliban are making it more difficult for the government to exercise its core functions in service delivery to the population. ‘If the government cannot do

(65) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

(66) Siddique, A., The Taliban’s Spring Offensive: Afghanistan Faces a Crucial Year, 19 May 2017 (url); AP, Taliban Announce Spring Offensive, Vow to Build Institutions, 28 April 2017, available at: (url).

(67) Nojumi, N., e-mail, 22 September 2017. Neamat Nojumi made this comment during the review of this report.

(68) Arbabzadah, N., 'Corruption' confusion in Afghanistan, 1 December 2009 (url).

(69) Gopal, A. and Strick van Linschoten, A., Ideology in the Afghan Taleban, June 2017 (url), p. 33.

(70) Semple, M., Reconciliation in Afghanistan, USIP, Washington DC, 2009, p. 37; see e.g. Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Voice of Jihad, Open letter by Spokesman of Islamic Emirate to the American President Donald Trump, 25 January 2017 (url).

(71) Gopal, A. and Strick van Linschoten, A., Ideology in the Afghan Taleban, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), June 2017 (url), p. 33.

(72) Nojumi, N., e-mail, 22 September 2017. Neamat Nojumi made this comment during the review of this report.

(73) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

(74) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

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its job, it gets delegitimized’ (75). According to Neamat Nojumi, this serves to ultimately weaken the government (76). Also according to Giustozzi, the main rationale of the targeting campaign is to undermine the functioning of the Kabul government and to tie individuals to the Taliban by forcing them to cooperate (77).

High government officials, including the army, police and National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel, are recruited to cooperate and spy for the Taliban, in exchange for money and being granted immunity from targeting (78).

2. Targeting collaborators: i.e. ‘people who spy or are perceived to be spying. At the very least to create an atmosphere where it is very dangerous to collaborate’ (79).

Journalist and author Abubakar Siddique stated in an interview for this report that the main aim of the targeting campaign by the Taliban is to spread fear among the population and to target their opposition, particularly those who have the power to oppose them (80). Analyst Borhan Osman corroborates that it is often members of local uprising forces - that are hard to defeat - who are individually targeted. In addition, the combination of being influential and being critical of the Taliban often makes a target. Someone who can change minds (81).

3. A third category of targeting comes, according to Anand Gopal, out of information deficit. He reasons that targeting in Afghanistan mainly happens in contested areas, where civilians are ‘on the fence’, trying to accommodate to both sides, and thus, loyalties are unclear for both sides. The objective here is to try and assert complete social control over areas and populations one does not completely control. Anand Gopal gave the view that, areas under complete Taliban control tend to see a lot less targeting, as either all suspected elements have left or have shown loyalty to the insurgents. Likewise, in areas under firm government control, there too tends to be less targeting, as the reach of the Taliban there is limited (82). Neamat Nojumi found it hard to assess the totality of this assertion, and suggested this is only true for some contested areas (83).

The Taliban statement at the announcement of their 2017 spring offensive – called Operation Mansouri – declared that ‘[i]n those areas where the Mujahideen do not have full control, the enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed, or captured until they are compelled to abandon their few remaining posts’. In clarification of who the enemy is, the statement continues ‘[t]he main focus of Operation Mansouri will be on foreign forces, their military and intelligence infrastructure and in eliminating their internal mercenary apparatus’ (84).

(75) Gopal, A., Skype interview, 1 September 2017.

(76) Nojumi, N., e-mail, 22 September 2017. Neamat Nojumi made this comment during the review of this report.

(77) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s Intelligence and intimidation campaign, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 12.

(78) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s Intelligence and intimidation campaign, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 7.

(79) Gopal, A., Skype interview, 1 September 2017.

(80) Siddique, A., Skype interview, 2 August 2017. Abubakar Siddique is a senior journalist and author on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

(81) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

(82) Gopal, A., Skype interview, 1 September 2017.

(83) Nojumi, N., e-mail, 22 September 2017. Neamat Nojumi made this comment during the review of this report.

(84) Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Voice of Jihad, Statement of the Islamic Emirate regarding the Inauguration of the Spring Offensive ‘Operation Mansouri’, 28 April 2017 (url).

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1.1.5 Taliban targeting of civilians

1.1.5.1 Restrictions

The Taliban definition of a ‘civilian’ differs from the definition used by UNAMA or in International Humanitarian Law. Civilians with certain profiles can be assessed as legitimate targets by the Taliban, while protected under International Humanitarian Law (85).

Although the Taliban officially has restrictions on targeting civilians and destroying certain civilian infrastructure (86), UNAMA attributes 61 % percent of all civilian casualties in 2016 (11,418 dead and wounded in 2016), to insurgents, mainly the Taliban (87). According to Farrell and Semple, resistance against this ‘reckless conduct of military operations by many commanders’ is growing within the Taliban ranks (88). A leaked internal letter from a senior figure in the Taliban to the Taliban leadership reveals harsh criticism of Taliban’s excessive use of violence and targeting of civilians. The letter allegedly says: ‘”All the mujahedin fighters should be ordered to cease killing our opponents inside mosques and stop killing prisoners,”

[…] “Stop killing people under suspicion traveling on roads. Stop bombing bridges, roads, and other similar places. Stop killing aid and construction workers who are helping our nation and building our homeland”.’ (89).

An analyst affiliated with the Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN), interviewed by the IRB, stated in 2016 that given the multi-layered conflict dynamics and often competing agendas of local armed groups, civilians are increasingly targeted to signal strength or control over an area (90). RUSI scholars Farrell and Semple report on a competition among commanders to deploy suicide bombers that will cause the maximum number of casualties (91).

Borhan Osman says that the rhetoric of the Taliban to be ‘less brutal’ towards the civilian population has an impact on the behaviour of the Taliban on the ground (92). On the other hand, Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin argued there also may be important divisions between the Taliban leaders and fighters on the ground. ‘Even when the leadership issues contrary instructions, fighters who capture territory by force of arms (e.g., Kunduz in September 2015) often revert to […] looting and carrying out revenge killings of those associated with the government or progressive social policies’ (93). Field commanders only get general directives from the Taliban leaders to ‘protect public infrastructure, treat the local population well, [and] not to hinder the activities of humanitarian organizations’ (94). These

(85) Clark, K., The Layha. Calling the Taleban to Account, 4 July 2011 (url), pp. 20-26; UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), p. 78.

(86) Clark, K., The Layha. Calling the Taleban to Account, 4 July 2011 (url), pp. 14-15; UN Secretary-General (UNSG), The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, 15 June 2017 2017, available at: (url), p.4

(87) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), pp. 3, 6.

(88) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

9.

(89) RFE/RL, Gandhara, Exclusive: Former Leader’s Bombshell Letter Exposes Internal Taliban Struggles, 21 October 2016 (url).

(90) IRB, Afghanistan: Whether the Taliban has the capacity to pursue individuals after they relocate to another region; their capacity to track individuals over the long term; Taliban capacity to carry out targeted killings (2012- January 2016), 15 February 2016 (url).

(91) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.10.

(92) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

(93) Rubin, B., in an introduction to: Osman, B. and Gopal, A., Taliban Views on a Future State, July 2016 (url), p. 4.

(94) Osman, B. and Gopal, A., Taliban Views on a Future State, July 2016 (url), p. 15.

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directives are according to Farrell and Semple, ‘widely flouted’ (95). For example, during the brief takeover of the city of Kunduz in 2015, NGO-workers were systematically singled out during house searches by the Taliban, despite the specific statements by (then) Taliban leader Mullah Mansour for NGO-workers to continue their work normally and report problems and complaints to the Taliban ‘Commission for Control and Administration of NGOs and Companies’ (96).

Borhan Osman suggests that, although there are categories of protected civilian sites, certain institutions can become legitimate targets again, such as the American University in Kabul for its links to the US, or, other targets such as Tolo TV and 1TV for their reporting on incidents in Kunduz in October 2015 (see 1.2.10 Media workers and civil society representatives for more details on this incident). Certain humanitarian organisations and cultural activities could also lose their position of ‘safeguarded’ and be made legitimate targets again (97). In general though, if a person is not active in the fight against the Taliban, in propaganda or on the battlefield, it is, according to Osman, not of interest for the Taliban to target such a person and hamper their efforts to appear as a viable alternative to the current government (98). Yet, according to Giustozzi, local Taliban may target certain individuals outside the general rules set out by the Taliban leadership and therefore not seek approval by the leadership to target this person (99).

Despite their ‘internal guidelines’ (layeha) against kidnapping for ransom, the Taliban is found to increasingly target financially well-off Afghan civilians. A UN report found that the mantle of ideological or political demands is used cover for pure moneymaking in many of these cases. However, not only rich Afghans are being kidnapped for ransom. Between 2003 and 2014, the UN reports that at Taliban checkpoints, individuals believed to be unsupportive of the insurgency are either executed on the spot or kidnapped in order to extract payments from their relatives (100). (See 1.1.5.4 Checkpoints)

The Taliban has established an ‘Independent Organ of the Islamic Emirate for the Prevention of Civilian Casualties and Enquiry of Grievances’, also referred to as the ‘Department for Prevention of Civilian Casualties and Complaints’ (see 1.1.1 Formal Structure of Taliban). This commission is tasked with investigating and recording civilian casualties caused by all parties to the conflict (101). This Commission is active countrywide and regularly issues public statements and reports on civil casualties. To UNAMA’s understanding, this is a standalone Commission, not an organ of the Taliban (102).

1.1.5.2 Targeting

In 2016, UNAMA documented at least 2,719 civilian casualties – 871 deaths and 1,848 injured – as a result of attacks intentionally directed at civilians and civilian objects, representing 24

(95) Farrell, T. and Semple, M., Ready for Peace? The Afghan Taliban after a decade of War, January 2017 (url), p.

9.

(96) UNAMA, Afghanistan Human Rights and Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Special Report on Kunduz Province, December 2015 (url), pp. 3, 16-17, 26.

(97) Osman, B., The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?, 5 September 2016 (url).

(98) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017.

(99) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s Intelligence and intimidation campaign, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 18.

(100) UN Security Council, Letter dated 2 February 2015 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council, 2 February 2015 (url).

(101) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), p. 76.

(102) UNAMA, e-mail, 3 October 2017. UNAMAs Human Rights Service made this comment during the review of this report.

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per cent of all civilian casualties in 2016, or 39 per cent of all casualties attributed to Anti- Government Elements (AGEs). This included tactics such as suicide attacks targeting peaceful protestors and those praying in mosques, as well as the targeted killing of specific individual civilians perceived not to support the AGEs, mostly by shooting or detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) (103). In the first six months of 2017, UNAMA recorded even higher percentages of civilian casualties from attacks intentionally targeting civilians, noting that the 1,413 civilian casualties resulted from attacks carried out by AGEs intentionally targeting civilians. The 1,413 civilian casualties from such attacks comprised 27 per cent of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2017, or 40 per cent of all casualties attributed to AGEs. UNAMA noted that these figures are conservative as they do not count attacks directed at police or unknown targets, some of which may have been considered civilian objects at the time of targeting (104).

Not only did insurgents kill and wound civilians in 2016, they were responsible for 350 incidents of abduction, involving a total 1,858 targeted persons, frequently based on the suspicion of having a connection to the government, including government employees and off-duty Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) members. Most of these abductees were released after payment of ransom or negotiations by elders, but 84 were also killed and 46 injured, mostly the off-duty members of ANSF, their family members, government staff, and people perceived to be government ‘spies’. Insurgents regularly conducts mass abductions of traveling people, to sift out the government and ANSF personnel form the group. Abductees who were wounded during these episodes were mostly injured due to beatings and ‘torture’

states UNAMA (105). In certain instances, the insurgents killed the suspected ANSF or government personnel on the spot. For example, in July 2017, 16 bus passengers were stopped and abducted by the Taliban. Seven were killed on the spot on the accusation of being government and army personnel. The others were abducted for further interrogation (106).

Refer to the sub-chapter on Checkpoints for more information.

UNAMA documented parallel justice punishments carried out on people accused of having family or working relations with the ANSF or the government (107).

Osman and Gopal both highlighted that in Afghanistan; a lot of the targeting originates from personal disputes, feuds and rivalries. In many cases, the conflict offers an opportunity to target one’s rival (108). Giustozzi notes that intelligence, both on the government side and the Taliban side, is also often affected by faulty information driven by feuds and vendettas (109).

1.1.5.3 Targeting procedure

Sources provided varying information regarding the procedures used by the Taliban in targeting. Dr. Antonio Giustozzi describes in his report for LandInfo from August 2017 – a report that relies heavily oral sources, mostly Taliban interviewees (110) – a very systematic procedure of identifying and targeting individuals: after being identified and located, (except

(103) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), pp.

71-73.

(104) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Report 2017, July 2017 (url), pp. 44-46.

(105) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), p. 67.

(106) Pajhwok Afghan News, Taliban gun down 7 passengers in Farah, 12 July 2017 (url).

(107) UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2016, February 2017 (url), p. 69.

(108) Osman, B., Skype interview, 8 August 2017. Borhan Osman is political analyst in the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), focussing his research on insurgent groups; Gopal, A., Skype interview, 1 September 2017.

(109) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s Intelligence and intimidation campaign, 23 August 2017 (url), pp. 16-17.

(110) Giustozzi, A., Afghanistan: Taliban’s Intelligence and intimidation campaign, 23 August 2017 (url), p. 5.

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